How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?

“Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.19-20

If you have spent any time in church during your lifetime, you have more than likely heard a sermon preached on this passage.  The Great Commission was the ultimate instruction of Jesus as to the purpose of the Church.  It consummated his teachings, it conveyed His heart and offered clear instructions for His followers.

So why do we not share?

Over the years I have oscillated between answers to that question, most often coming to rest on “fear”.  We are afraid of rejection, we are afraid of not having the answers to questions that will be posed, we are afraid of socially awkward situations or breaking a relationship.  It is even common amongst Christians today to believe that we must first earn someone’s trust through months or years of relationship before ever breaching the topic.

But recently I have been coming to the conclusion that our lack of sharing is based fundamentally on a lack of belief.  I first saw this video in the 90’s:

Admittedly, I know nothing more about Penn Jillette than what you can read on Wikipedia.  And while I would be quick to point out the distinction that needs to be made between evangelism and proselytization (to evangelize is to share your faith, to proselytize often carries the connotation of conversion for gain – monetary, social, relief aid, etc), his point is clear.   And in this video he states that he is an atheist but asks the simple question:

“How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

He then illustrates his point with the analogy of a man who is at risk of being hit by a bus.  If a person is in danger, and you do not warn him – Jillette argues that there comes a point where you tackle the man regardless of his thoughts.  American culture mandates the Good Samaritan response of helping the person in need – even if he is unaware of his need.  So why would we willfully neglect the greatest, eternal need of every human being?  We must not fundamentally believe it.

Would you yell a warning or pull someone out of the street if they were in the path of an oncoming bus?

J. I. Packer says “There is something badly wrong with a Christian who does not have a passion for evangelism”.  I wholeheartedly agree.  And the buck starts with me.  Last month a man in his late sixties poured out his life story to me.  He even asked me if I had a faith to get me through, and while I said “Yes, God has been my rock and the only thing to get me through this past eighteen months”, I neglected to offer him the hope that I have – even though he told me that he does not have a faith.  Do I truly believe that apart from Christ he will go to Hell?  If so, why did I keep silent?  If I would push a person out of the path of a bus, why would I not warn him of eternal damnation?

Do you believe it?  Or is Christianity just something you do?

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3 comments on “How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?

  1. Thank you for this! I especially enjoyed the quote about knowing God but not telling people. It’s bold, but makes sense. Sharing your beliefs and extending invitations with others, especially complete strangers can be challenging. I did it for two years as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and still continue to share today when I have the opportunity. As difficult as it may seem at first, there are great blessings given to those who do share. Thank you again.

  2. […] The Holy Spirit had gone forth and prepared Cornelius’ heart as well as his whole family’s.  Then Peter came and through the preaching and hearing of the Word, they were saved.  I know a man who so fully believes in the future hope of eternity in Heaven, and mankind’s need of this salvation that he shares the Gospel with everyone he meets.  He calls his lifestyle relational evangelism: “I’ll tell everyone the Gospel and those who want to believe will be my friend”.  I wrote earlier on an atheist’s perspective of evangelism that is quite convicting here. […]

  3. […] b :  to put up with Let us consider an extremely important question:  Did Jesus ever “put up with” or allow sin?  Clearly there is a differentiation between condoning and putting up with.  Did Jesus ever say, “It’s OK, don’t worry about it” when someone was sinning in His presence?  The answer is a resounding no.  Jesus was extremely concerned with sin, as God defines sin.  If someone desires to argue that Jesus did not judge, the go-to passage is typically the woman caught in adultery: “Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act.  Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?’  They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him.  But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.  But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’  Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.  When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court.  Straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they?  Did no one condemn you?’  She said, ‘No one, Lord.’  And Jesus said, ‘I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.’”  – John 8.2-11 Jesus did not condemn the woman.  But what was His instruction to her?  Sin no more.  When Jesus saw the selling and buying happening in the temple, He got angry and overturned the tables, driving the vendors out of the building.  When He spoke to Zaccheus, the sinner repented and gave back half of what he owned to the poor (Luke 19). The second go-to passage is Jesus’ teaching on hypocrisy.  In Matt 7 and Luke 6, Jesus teaches that by the same standard we judge others, we will be judged.  Therefore, it serves no good for a drunk to judge a drunk, a liar to judge a liar or murderer to judge a murderer.  The reason is because our judgment within the Body of Christ is a sanctifying work, pushing one another on to good deeds and obedience (Heb 10.24), and if I am a pathological liar, I will be of no benefit to my friend who also lies, in helping him to conquer the sin.  Jesus is not saying that the sin is allowable, He is saying “be careful”, so that you will not be found a hypocrite and do not hold others to a higher standard than you yourself are able to keep. Just last week I wrote on the fact that non-Christians are going to act like non-Christians.  So I will not dive too deeply into the topic again, other than to say – non-Christians are going to act like non-Christians.  And we ought to expect them to.  It benefits no one to clean up someone’s act if He is not given a new heart and transformed from the inside out.  So in that sense, yes.  We tolerate.  Within the law, and when innocent people are not directly affected.  I do not try to force those who do not know Jesus to act like Jesus.  I try to introduce them to Jesus, and let Jesus transform them from the inside out. However, tolerance within the Body is quite another conversation.  The only reason one cries out for tolerance is the desire to harbor sin.  ”You can’t judge me” only means, “I love this sin and you cannot take it from me”.  The typical defense is “You are a sinner too” or “No one is perfect”.  Yes, you are absolutely right.  There is none righteous, no not one (Rom 3.10).  We are all sinful.  But that most certainly does not justify us to sin in the eyes of God.  Because He is holy, He is perfect and He does not tolerate sin.  You may not continue willfully in sin after salvation and expect God’s forgiveness (Heb 10.26-27).  The mark of a Christian is one who is fighting sin. So which is it, Christian?  Do you love your sin, or do you love God and His commandments?  You have to choose one or the other. Now, that brings us on to the second topic of conversation addressed here:  Is it loving to tolerate or is it loving to point out sin?  I also wrote, a few months ago, on how true friends help us to fight sin in our lives.  And the question is basically answered above.  It is loving to point the unsaved to Jesus.  And the reason that Jesus is our hope is because He died and paid the punishment for our sin.  Yes, we all have to admit that we are sinners, we have to confess our sins and we have to turn away from them.  But by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is the most loving thing in the world to offer someone hope.  But it must be done in kindness, sincerity and love. “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”  – 1 Cor 13.1-3 The Gospel is offensive enough.  There is no reason for us to make ourselves more of a stumbling block than Jesus already is to the lost.  So, let us be nice.  Let us offer hope.  Let us be bold and allow Jesus to be the determining factor, not our insensitivity or lack of people skills.  ”Put up” with sin, if the person does not know Jesus.  And if the person does know Jesus, walk with him in love to restore him to obedience. How much do you have to hate somebody not to proselytize? […]

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